Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 75:1
That was the beginning of the psalm that my latest journey through the Psalms providentially brought me to on Thanksgiving yesterday. Perfect.

Two days earlier I read Psalm 73 and was especially struck by what I saw as the connection between the first and last verse of the psalm:
Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
Psalm 73:1 (emphasis added)


But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the LORD GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
Psalm 73:29 (emphasis added)
What's the connection between these two verses in light of everything that comes in between them? The way God is good to Israel is by bringing Israel near to Himself.

And then the next day (the day before Thanksgiving) I read Psalm 74 which draws a connection between the way God seems to at times abandon His people and the way He seems to at times ignore the dishonoring of His name. What's the connection between the two? Because of the covenant that God made with Israel, the cause of God's people is inextricably bound up with the cause of God's name. The God who seems to look on idly while His name is being reviled is the same God who seems to look on idly as His people suffer. But verse 12 tells us that He is NOT idle:
Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
Psalm 74:12
His glory. Our good, our joy. Inseparable.

So by the time Thanksgiving day came and I found myself in Psalm 75, verse 1 made perfect sense.
We give thanks to you, O God;
we give you thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 75:1 (emphasis added)
Why are the people giving thanks to God? Because His name--which not only represents His presence (Psalm 73) but also is bound up with their cause (Psalm 74)--has drawn near. And so they love to rejoice in the exaltation of His name! This is the greatest possible reason for thanksgiving, not just on the last Thursday of November but every day (and every moment of every day).

So today I celebrate no less than I did yesterday that Jesus "suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). There's no greater good than this.

For the gospel that brings me near to God, I give thanks. And I recount some of His wondrous deeds from this past year that I'm thankful for (in no particular order):
  • I'm thankful for the local church: the mothers, brothers, and sisters that Jesus surrounds me with so that even though I may be single, I'm not alone (Genesis 2:18, Mark 3:33-35, Mark 10:29-30)
  • I'm thankful for the infinitely powerful, fear-destroying love of God for me through Jesus' wrath-bearing death in my place (1 John 4:10, 18, Revelation 1:5) that gives me invincible joy today and bold hope as I look to an unknown tomorrow
  • I'm thankful that in spite of the ups and downs of transferring to a new position at work at the beginning of this year, I still have a great job in this unstable economy when, all things considered, I really should have been laid off (Daniel 2:20-21)
  • I'm thankful for the Christ-exalting, Scripture-saturated army of gospel soldiers that God is using to bring revival and reformation in His church through rap and hip-hop culture (Romans 11:4-5). Just yesterday, as we were reminiscing about some of the songs we used to listen to, I was telling my sister how, in my opinion, this past decade can't touch the 90's when it comes to music in general (no pun intended =P ). But when it comes to the genre of rap and hip hop, this music seems to be a recent, supernatural phenomena of this past decade with no other explanation but a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a particular sphere of culture.
  • I'm thankful for the ever-fresh, ever-relevant, ever-fascinating, Holy Spirit-inspired Scriptures that daily root me in an otherwise imperceptible reality (Psalm 119:18, Psalm 119:105, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12)
  • I'm thankful for several meetings with my pastor discussing my plans for Kenya that left me mindful of my insufficiencies as a leader (let alone church planter) and the many messages I preached (just about all of them) that left me mindful of my inabilities as a preacher because each has served to establish me more deeply in the gospel of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as my only boast (Galatians 6:14)
  • I'm thankful for the significant recovery of my former roommate whose illness brought him literally into the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 64:19-20, Psalm 69:13, Psalm 40:1-3, Psalm 103:3)
  • I'm thankful for being surrounded by fellow believers who, in the midst of hardship, strive to submit to the sovereign Father of spirits and live (Hebrews 12:9, Job 1:21) rather than disapprove of or question His wisdom (Job 2:9-10, Romans 11:33-34) which is the default impulse of our fallen nature
  • I'm thankful for fellow laborers in my church whose lives are marked by a passionate urgency to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10, John 17:18, John 20:21)
  • I'm thankful for a new resurgence of the gospel and biblical theology in Nairobi among young adults; and the missionally-minded community that is graciously extending to me the honor of joining them in the new year as God continues to direct the greatest story ever told that He wrote in eternity past (Ephesians 1:9-11, Isaiah 46:9-11)
Just a few things I'm thankful for this year. And there's so much more.
We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 75:1
What are you thankful for?


Anonymous said...

There are so many things to be thankful for! Here are just a few:
- My beautiful and talented wife, a good and perfect gift to and for me like no other (James 1:17)
- That God's work in my life is based on His character and not mine (Ps 25:8)
- That He wants to foster humility in my life so that He can teach and guide me (Ps 25:9)
- That every circumstance in my life is evidence of God's mercy and faithfulness as I strive to live in obedience to Him (Ps 25:10)
- That He is infinitely more interested in the glory of His name than in my glory - so much so that He has His glory in mind even when forgiving me of my great iniquity (Ps 25:11)
- That one day He will wipe away every tear and make all things new... (Rev 21:4-5)

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. (Ps 145:3)

pilgriminconflict said...

Amen brother! Thanks for encouraging me with your thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Likewise, brother!